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The Gunn House

Get ready for the next Westport battle: What to do with the Gunn House.

Named after longtime owner Ben Gunn — who for many years housed his law firm there — the Queen Anne building has sat handsomely on the corner of Church Lane and Elm Street for 120 years.

When Bedford Square Associates began planning their new development — replacing the Westport Y and adjacent buildings — many Westporters worried that the Gunn House would be demolished.

BSA offered the structure to anyone, for just $1. There were no takers.

Gunn House — 35 Church Lane — was built in 1893.

Now the developer has offered to move it across Elm Street, to the Baldwin parking lot. BSA will spend $150,000, in relocation fees and a new foundation. The Historic District Commission has approved the plan.

Beyond that, ideas for the structure — including who would use it, and maintain it — are unclear.

This may be the next downtown “controversy.” It’s sure to generate debate — from preservationists worried about what will become of the building; merchants and shoppers concerned about losing spaces in the parking lot; anti-BSA folks certain there’s an ulterior motive somewhere, and others with points of view we had not yet heard from and/or figured out.

That’s Westport. Arguing about old buildings and new construction is what we do best.

But it’s worth noting that this marks an important milestone: A developer has heard pleas for preservation, and heeded them.

With its own money.

The last time that happened was …

An artist’s rendering of proposed new construction on the corner of Church Lane and Elm Street — the current site of the Gunn House.

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